Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 08 2012

Talent show meeting #1.

My blog is basically becoming spam, I’m aware. Dwindling readership will not be a surprise, but I can’t help it.

Daily, minor explosions of incredible go off like hand grenades. Scattered and unexpected. Catching me off guard, showering me with not debris and horror, but an attack that I can’t ignore. Caroline, look at what is happening. Caroline, look at these students, look at this success, look at this — !

During block today, I used ten minutes to finally order that bouquet for University YES Academy, our pen-pals. As I was working our lit facilitator came in to shortly discuss with me how my performance (rather, my students’ test scores on the language portion of our state test) is horrible. I’m well aware. Last year I could not get my students to sit down, let alone teach them anything. It might have also made a difference that the company we hired to advise us and give us released questions use exclusively Benchmark (the Arkansas test) questions, and when we got the language test it was entirely ITBS, the Iowa test. In other words, my students literally started bawling because they had never seen the material presented in that way.

Granted, if it was Benchmark, God knows if they’d improve at all.

The point is, despite my failing performance according to test scores, I am in love with my job, district, and kids, still. In fact, I should probably be worried about how much I don’t care about grammar standards. I’m focusing too much on getting students to share and respect their thinking out loud, too much on having counseling sessions instead of class, focusing on getting a student to trust me instead of answer a multiple choice question.

Though, that is merely the self-righteous, angry TFA-er inside of me, eager to blame other things for my own failure. I know that to be a truly transformational teacher I need to do all those things simultaneously, but the fact is I’m a little proud of what my students are doing right now, even if it’s isn’t gett 100% on an exam I don’t get to see or know anything about before it’s given. (I tried to hide my bias in that sentence, I just can’t do it right now.)

OKAY WHY AM I SO HAPPY? Because I am! I will tell you! After school we had our first official talent show meeting. I had four students planning it already, who had been giving me notes and talking to the principal and holding me accountable. We finally had our first long, focused meeting after school today. These girls are all friends and responsible and I love them. (One is my girl Dria, who came to our two Student Leadership Dinners.)

Word got out that we were planning, and other students asked if they could come. I told them yes, of course, and ended up with eight students after school today.

It was an interesting situation, because the initial four are black, and the additional four are white, and I’ve never seen them hang out, and, frankly, I was a bit curious about what would happen. Would they be reserved? Less enthusiastic? Mean?

No! No no no! Of course not! They are twelve! They’ve been going to school together for seven years! These girls were so fun, so invested, so excited to be there. They worked hard and immediately. We made three big posters, created a sign-up list and an “audition slip” for people to fill out, scheduled all the auditions for lunches during the next two weeks, and had plenty of fun bonding them. They were productive and happy and such a huge inspiration. If only I could give this opportunity for leadership and planning (they had to write, type, and create everything, I refused) to all of my students. They would learn so much about themselves, each other, and organizing… sigh.

It was amazing.

This is more of a note to self than anything else.

I drove three students home, which I don’t think I am supposed to do, and I saved Dria for last. She was quiet in the car. As soon as the other two girls were out, she quietly told me, “Ms. L, the girls said L doesn’t like me because I’m black.”

And there is an entirely new beast to fight with. I told her, “Dria, it’s that kind of thing that made me want to come and teach in Dumas in the first place. It’s why I’m here. To change things like that.”

2 Responses

  1. delawhere?

    This. All of This. Incredible.

Post a comment